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BEN Portal Launches Updated Digital Library, Announces News Scholars
An innovative digital library spearheaded by AAAS has launched a redesigned portal giving college and university educators free access to a diverse set of accurate, reliable biology education resources.
The new BiosciEdNet (BEN) Collaborative portal features easier-to-use advanced search functions enabling educators to sort the more than 4,700 reviewed resources covering 77 biological sciences topics into grade-level categories. In addition, the new site will allow searchers to limit results to free resources.
Besides layout and navigation updates, the Collaborative selected 21 undergraduate faculty members to become the first cohort of BEN Scholars. With the mission of providing grassroots outreach for the digital library and inquiry-based learning in higher education, the Scholars will promote the portal on their campuses and contribute materials to the digital library.
In December 2006, the 21 Scholars attended a four-day Leadership Training Institute program in Washington, D.C. There, the educators attended seminars on leadership, contributing to digital libraries, incorporating the BEN portal resources into their classrooms, and networking skills. In selecting the BEN Scholars, the Collaborative sought faculty members who were leaders in biological science teaching and learning with a demonstrated commitment to improving undergraduate education.
"We are testing the BEN Scholars Programs as an outreach model to get faculty to use and contribute resources to the digital libraries of BEN Collaborators," said Yolanda George, deputy director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. "Research shows that when faculty design activities that help students explore, understand, and connect information rather than just memorize information, students learning and performance increase."
Established in 1999 by AAAS and 11 other professional societies, the BEN Collaborative portal contains lesson plans, articles, diagrams, movies, and other resources from more than 25 collaborators including American Society for Microbiology, American Physiological Society, Ecological Society of America, and Science's Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment (STKE). While much of the materials are geared towards college and university faculty, some are useful for high school and middle school teachers who are teaching advanced biology topics.
Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, the BEN portal was selected in 2005 to be the biological sciences pathway for the NSF's National Science Digital Library (NSDL) project. Other NSDL projects include the Engineering Pathway, the Materials Science Pathway (MatDL), and the Physics and Astronomy Pathways.
While NSDL resources are primarily designed for K-16 educators, anyone can search the libraries at no cost, with many of the sites requiring a free login.
In redesigning the BEN portal, the Collaborative hired Isovera, Inc. (formerly e-guana.net), a technology-consulting firm that helps non-profits enhance their mission, operations, capacity, and results.
In July 2007, Isovera, who has worked with AAAS and the BEN Portal since 2002, will release updated tools for BEN Collaborative members to more easily manage their catalogs of peer-reviewed resources and contribute them to the portal.
"The BEN Portal levels the playing field in the biology education community," notes Cal Collins, founder and chief technology officer of Isovera. "Educators and students at smaller institutions that lack the resources to generate or access high-quality, cutting-edge educational resources are able to do so by using BEN."
2006 BEN Scholars:
Miguel Aguilar, El Paso Community College
Lorrie Brilla, Western Washington University
Jeff Brown, Washington College
Larry Cahoon, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Kari Clase, Purdue University
Juville Dario-Becker, Central Virginia Community College
Sam Fan, Bradley University
Ron Gerrits, Milwaukee School of Engineering
Virginia Gutiérrez-Osborne, Fresno City College
Lee Hughes, University of North Texas
Sue Katz, Rogers State University
Dwight Krehbiel, Bethel College
Jerry Krueger, South Dakota State University
Terry McGuire, Rutgers University
Holly Morris, Lehigh Carbon Community College
Dan Perlman, Brandeis University
Rebecca Reiss, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Michèle Shuster, New Mexico State University
Joanne Tillotson, Purchase College, State University of New York
Steve Wagner, Stephen F. Austin State University
Dave Wessner, Davidson College
26 February 2007